Biochemical and therapeutic effects of Omega-3 fatty acids in sickle cell disease

Complement Ther Med. 2020 Aug;52:102482. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102482. Epub 2020 Jun 9.


Sickle cell disease (SCD) is a hematologic disorder with complex pathophysiology that includes chronic hemolysis, vaso-occlusion and inflammation. Increased leukocyte-erythrocyte-endothelial interactions, due to upregulated expression of adhesion molecules and activated endothelium, are thought to play a primary role in initiation and progression of SCD vaso-occlusive crisis and end-organ damage. Several new pathophysiology-based therapeutic options for SCD are being developed, chiefly targeting the inflammatory pathways. Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are known to have effects on diverse physiological processes. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are the principal biologically active omega-3 fatty acids. The therapeutic effects of DHA and EPA on chronic inflammatory disorders and cardiovascular diseases are well recognized. The therapeutic effects of omega-3 fatty acids are attributed to their anti-inflammatory and anti-thrombotic eicosanoids, and the novel class of EPA and DHA derived lipid mediators: resolvins, protectins and maresins. Blood cell membranes of patients with SCD have abnormal fatty acids composition characterized by high ratio of pro-inflammatory arachidonic acid (AA) to anti-inflammatory DHA and EPA (high omega-6/omega-3 ratio). In addition, experimental and clinical studies provide evidence that treatment with DHA does confer improvement in rheological properties of sickle RBC, inflammation and hemolysis. The clinical studies have shown improvements in VOC rate, markers of inflammation, adhesion, and hemolysis. In toto, the results of studies on the therapeutic effects of omega-3 fatty acids in SCD provide good body of evidence that omega-3 fatty acids could be a safe and effective treatment for SCD.

Keywords: Anti-inflammatory; Inflammation; Omega-3 fatty acids; Sickle cell disease.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anemia, Sickle Cell / drug therapy*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / pharmacology*
  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3 / therapeutic use*
  • Humans


  • Fatty Acids, Omega-3